Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Nomination Is In: Graded Stakes Grab Bag: 5 Races, 3 Tracks and 1 Fat Cigar on Standby

Life is full of complications, dichotomies, and at times, confusion. One day you wake up and you're told that red wine is bad for you, the next day it's good for you. More protein, less fat, more fat, eat carbohydrates, don't eat carbohydrates, reading in the dark is bad, no it's OK, to this, not that, blah blah blah. Our poor society seems to be stuck developmentally as well. Why can't we tear eyes away from the trial of a sad figure who failed her child on so many levels? Why do we spend taxpayer money building overpriced stadiums for professional sports that print dollars, only to have these billionaires lock out the millionaires and deny the minimum wage employees their own incomes? Why do we spend more than any sane country should on education only to not see tangible results? The Turk is troubled by the world, and I have no answers for any of the questions that leave me thinking, but what I do have is a game I turn to, a collection athletes that never go on strike, that want nothing more than to please and be cared for. A game that allows me to analyze, compare, wager if I choose. A game that is far from perfect but does offer up slices of heaven.

If you're a horseplayer you are most likely a hedonist at heart. I'm not talking about scantily clad folks lounging around a poolside bar in the Caribbean thinking about who next to introduce themselves too (although there is nothing wrong with that!) I'm talking a more pure pleasure seeker, one who looks at the horses, sees beauty, looks at the game and sees opportunity. Risk and Reward: I handicap, I bet, I win, I lose, but at the end of the day I have calmness and the belief that of all that is bad in the world, I still have the horses, I still have my family, and I still have my health, not in that particular order.

I have a Romeo Y Julieta waiting for me today no matter how I handicap. Inside my humidor, amongst the 100 or so sticks of pleasure is a special cigar, an aging piece of old Havana. I hold it in reserve for a magical day at the windows, without any definition of what a magical day would mean. I can't predict when that day will come, and I'm not even sure how to predict the possibility of its arrival, but I keep playing the races, and I win my share, and I know it isn't far the rapture (maybe I'm off by a few months too?.

Anyhow, I don't often to burden my readers with the ramblings of a middle aged handicapper but I guess today was just one of those days. I'm feeling a bit blue because I missed an opportunity to see old friends last night as duty called. As therapy I've assembled a series of races, like I would if i was marketing the sport to grow the game not just the objectives of certain people, organizations or track conglomerates. If I were the czar I would bundle 2 hours each Saturday night of graded stakes action from multiple tracks and go bam...bam...bam...across the TV screen until the two hours was up, and I'd do it again the following week. I would stop trotting C list celebrities out on the screen and I would instead enlist the best communicators of the game we have and let them sell it. I liked my idea last week too: I'd target sports columnists at all the major papers and start bringing them to the track, because the track sells itself. Slowly but surely these folks, either on the radio, or in the opinion pieces, will start to talk horse racing.

You poor folks, let's just get after it!

Five Races, 3 Tracks, all Graded Stakes over 172 Minutes stating at 5:16 ET

I'm not sure where I come out today. While The Ol' Turk is mostly a Pick Four player, sometimes I just want to be fan and watch the races without much concern over the tote board and my ADW account. I've built handicaps I can play and have some fun with, and I'll most likely go no deeper than exactas an tri's, but we'll see. I started at Belmont, jumped to Monmouth and ended at Hollywood, with a little break near the last race to char grill some good eats.

The Dwyer at Belmont leads us off at 5:16. 7 horses, 1 turn for this grade 2 event with the 3 year olds. Adios Charlie will attract heavy coin, perhaps serious show pool money, but I'm looking for Tech Fall to take a step forward. A quick peek at the morning lines after I handicapped showed he was 10-1. I'll be happy with anything >6-1. Anthony Dutrow's runner makes only his 5th start, with R. Dominguez up for the first time. The son of Birdstone has steadily improved and is working in the morning very well. He'll come just off the pace. A pace set by who? Harlan's Hello will press the pace before fading, and Dominus should be there as well, but I would expect Adios Charlie and Tech Fall to duel in the stretch, with perhaps a bid by an Angel Pena trained Cool Blue Red Hot or Dick Dutrow's Rocking Out. Adios Charlie has been training very nice at Saratoga but Trainer Hough only wins 7% of his 31-60 day layoffs. We'll be expecting him to run good at the Spa.

The Suburban is next up, sans Haynesfield this year, the race that made him a real player. It's a solid six horse field, but its still six horses that would be so much better with 8 or 9. I like Rodman to win. I think he is the pick but just behind him are some real quality runners which makes this quite interesting. Colizeo will need a good trip and look for a setup to run against. Convocation has had mixed results since placing in this race last year. Hymn Book came off the grass last time out and ran good over a sealed big sandy but I'd put him behind Icabad Crane and Flat Out. This is gambling folks, I have no idea how this one will unfold.

Monmouth offers up one the the great Grade I turf events of the year, the United Nations. If you're a fan of the grass, you'll love this 1 3/8 classic. My chalk is Bourbon Bay; 3 of 4 in the money this year and 5 of 5 in the money in 2010, as well as 13 of 17 in the money on grass. Alan Garcia is up, 16% winner, hmmmm. He ships in from the left coast where he has trained steady for Trainer Drysdale. Sucker for the name too.

It's a coin toss with Chinchon and Stacelita, two Euros that can really stay. Stacelita, 5 YO mare, with Joe Bravo up, has $1.5 MM in earnings in 14 starts with 8 wins while Chinchon, the 6 YO horse has $1.9MM in 23 tries with 5 wins.

Teaks North and Sleepless Knight, the Breen trained George and Lori Hall runner, seem to be logical Show and Exotic contenders, with Eldaafer somewhere in the exotic mix possibly, while everyone else is getting tossed for better or worse. Teaks North may be peaking and is 3 of 3 over Monmouth turf. He seems to represent some real value. Watch the tote board!

The grilled will get started around this time but while it's heating up I jump to Hollywood about 1/2 hour later for the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile. I may be a bit giddy from my earlier blog ranting but I'm backing Liberian Freighter over most likely higher ranking and superior animals, Caracortado and Courageous Cat. Martin Garcia is up and I expect the 5 time Hollywood Turf winner will bounce back from his last 1 mile effort in the Grade 2 American.

Courageous Cat comes in off a huge last race winning Grade 3 effort on good turf at Belmont. The Mott trainer tries Hollywood for the first time. Caracortado needs no introduction but does need a win, as he's had some dull efforts lately. Victor's Cry makes his first try back after going to Dubai but once this last year on long odds. Blue Chagall is background noise.

With a 90 minute break to eat I'll end with the Grade I Triple Bend Handicap. I'm intrigued byu a class challenged Color of Courage, a 4 YO gelding who has 2 wins at HOL on the fake dirt and two straight 100 + Beyers in the process. Mike Smith left him for Amazombie, as he would of course do, but don't discount.

Amazombie and Smiling Tiger are the two heavy hitters here, with M One Rifle in the next pack back. Camp Victory might not be buying that conventional thinking and with Talamo up, the Forest Camp claimer may be ready to turn the tables.

So there you have it, good stuff all the way around. I don't think weather will be a concern today, but check the track conditions, scratches and changes and the tote board for value. Do your own handicapping and don't let morning lines, TV talking heads or bald handicappers like me influence your thinking in any way.

Have fun, Turk Out!

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